Aquatic exercise improves fitness and leg strength for people with coronary heart disease

Sophie Heywood

In a new study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy from Curtin University and Physiotherapist Anna Scheer, improvements in aerobic fitness, body fat and leg strength were found in people with stable coronary heart disease. The participants in the study were at least 6 months after their cardiac event.

The exercises were completed for one hour, three times a week for 12 weeks.

Anna spoke to Australian Physiotherapy Association Inmotion about the study that compared water-based exercise to gym-based exercise. Anna said "The exercise programs for both groups were very similar and involved a warm-up and cool-down of light aerobic activity and mobility exercises, with the main training stimulus being a circuit of alternating aerobic and resistance exercises.

The exercise groups were matched for heart rate (progressing from 50 per cent to 80 per cent of the maximum heart rate measured during the baseline exercise test) and the exercises were matched for muscle groups and training time.

The aerobic exercises for the pool sessions involved walking or jogging in the pool and high knee lifts on the spot, whereas in the gym participants walked or jogged on treadmills and used stationary bikes.

The resistance exercises in the pool used custom-made paddles (made from acrylic sheets) on either side of the hand or lower leg and utilised drag resistance.

These exercises involved moving through a set range (for example, knee flexion and extension) and we used waterproof metronomes on headbands to ensure that participants maintained an appropriate speed/resistance."

Exciting results with both groups improving equally and the water exercise program offering a potentially more comfortable place to exercise to high intensity for lots of people with heart disease who also have issues with joint conditions like arthritis.